|Previews: Chrono Trigger Six reasons Square's latest cash-in could be worth the dough.
By Jeremy Parish 07/10/2008
Fans demanded it, and Square Enix saw the potential to rake in big fat dollars with it: Chrono Trigger is returning on DS. Not with a sequel, mind you, but with a fairly straightforward port of the classic Super NES role-playing game. Pretty lousy, right? What nerve do they have, asking us to pay full price for a game that's more than 10 years old?!
Feign indignation all we like, though, we can't deny that we're at least a little excited about the remake, if for no other reason than the fact that even a full-price DS game is going to cost less than the original Super NES cart, which sells for stupid amounts of money on eBay (yes, even after you factor in the $10 "Square Enix tax" on its DS releases). But over and above everything else, Chrono Trigger is simply a great game that deserves to be played by anyone who loves great games. Here's why:
Reason No. 1
It's still incredibly playable.
Trigger represents what happens when the creators of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest work together (while arguably at their creative peak). It's a brisk, breezy RPG that emphasizes playability over fussiness. Random battles are nowhere to be seen, deep character customization is sacrificed in favor of an innovative combo system that enables every possible party setup to be effective, and level-grinding is obviated by enemies designed to be defeated through thoughtfully applied skills rather than brute force. It's an RPG anyone can enjoy, because it ignores the most tedious parts of the genre without feeling overtly suffocating.
SCREENS: Click the image above to check out all Chrono Trigger screens.
Reason No. 2
It still looks and sounds great.
Back in 1995, Trigger represented the pinnacle of audio and visual design for RPGs. Sure, its tile-based graphics are a little dated now, but it's so packed with detail and character that it'll still be one of the nicest-looking games on DS. And the soundtrack is packed with classic, memorable tunes that perfectly set the tone of the adventure.
Reason No. 3
It features a fun story full of likable characters.
Trigger may not tell the deepest story, but that's part of what makes it so fun. The characters are never bogged down with angst, never so occupied pontificating the nature of reality or whatever that they didn't have time to kick ass. It's a straightforward tale of boy meets girl, girl erases herself from history, boy saves girl, girl decides to save humanity from utter annihilation through time travel...and it moves so quickly that you never have time to think about the paradoxes involved.
Reason No. 4
Maybe it won't be bowdlerized this time!
Despite what a certain flavor of fanboy may claim, Trigger was one of the most effectively translated Japanese games of the 16-bit era. The English script perfectly captured the lighthearted spirit of the plot and characters while making the intricacies of time travel seem accessible and sane. But it also fell prey to cartridge-space limitations and Nintendo's heavy-handed censorship -- seriously, who pours soda over a grave? -- and we're looking forward to seeing what Square's localization team can do with the game now that they're freed of those constraints. They've proven before that they can expand a classic game's English dialogue without abandoning the tone and humor that made it so memorable in the first place.
Reason No. 5
It still has the best New Game + feature ever.
If there's any single reason fans play Trigger over and over again, it's the game's fantastic New Game + feature; perhaps the first time a console RPG allowed character stats and gear to carry over into a second playthrough. Obviously, this makes subsequent replays a breeze...but since the game features more than a dozen different endings to discover, the compulsion is undeniable. Few gaming experiences make you feel more awesome than crushing Lavos with only Crono and Marle.
Reason No. 6
The last port sucked, but this one should be better. Gamers truly desperate to experience Trigger do have one other legal option available to them: 2000's Final Fantasy Chronicles, which brought the game to PlayStation to whet everyone's appetite for Chrono Cross. Unfortunately, the Chronicles version also brought with it muffled sound, soul-destroying slowdown, and out-of-kilter visuals that make that version almost completely unplayable for anyone who doesn't hate videogames. We're positive this remake will be far more playable. The DS's resolution is a much better match for the Super NES's, for one. More importantly, though, is the fact that Square Enix seems to be taking this revival seriously. They've gone so far as to bring aboard the game's original composer, Yasunori Mitsuda, who will be overseeing the game's sound quality. This means the audio should be far more faithful than the strained melodies in other Square remakes like Final Fantasy IV. We've heard hints of new additions; while we could live without touch controls, the game's new dungeon (maybe the infamous Singing Mountain that was cut from the original version? Or a chance to finally help Magus save his sister Schala?) has us champing at the bit to tackle this remake.